One thing that has surprised me is how many times a psychologist like myself has been asked to encourage people to give. They ask if it bothers me to speak on giving. It doesn't bother me any more than telling people to exercise. Although painful when you begin, when you cultivate that discipline you find that it is one of the best things you have done in your life.
Unfortunately, when we talk about giving we often resort to gimmicks. I heard about one pastor who said, "In this Bible I have a two-minute sermon worth $5,000. I also have a fifteen-minute sermon that's worth $500. I have a two-hour sermon that's worth about $5. You choose which sermon you want when we pass the offering plate."
Giving is a tough subject. Money causes difficulties between people. One man said, "My wife divorced me for religious reasons." I said, "Oh, I didn't know that was possible." He said, "Yeah, she worshiped money and I didn't have any." Sometimes money gets in the way of relationships.
Of course, part of the problem is that it does talk—it says "Goodbye." One guy told me he lost money in the bear market and the bull market, and he didn't have enough money for the flea market. I personally invested in revolving doors and paper towels—before I could turn around, I was wiped out.
Often people are out to get your money. Even on Christian television, they mostly talk about money. They say that God will give back if you give to this ministry, that if you give $100, God will give back $1,000. I encourage you to call and tell them to send you the $100 and let God give them the $1,000-see how they handle that!
Raising money can cause anxiety. A rookie policeman was asked what he would do to break up an angry crowd. He said he would take up a collection. That would probably do it. The key to giving is understanding that it is about your outlook not your income. God wants giving to be a good thing.
A farmer could say, "The seed is mine, mine, mine. But I have to give it up and plant it in the ground. This is dumb but I have to do it." That would not be a very smart farmer. The more he plants, the greater the crops and the greater the profit. He should plant as much seed as possible. That is the way farming and giving works. If you ran across a farmer who wasn't planting seed, who said he didn't want dirt to get on his seed, but that he was still expecting crops, you would say "Stupid farmer." The difficulty for the farmer—and for us—is that we have to trust. We don't understand how a seed in the ground can product 100-fold but we trust that it will. One of the great benefits of giving is that it teaches us to trust. Greed grinds relationships. If trust is not part of a relationship, it will soon deteriorate.
The telephone rang in the office of Honeywell and Jones. "May I speak to Mr. Jones?" the caller asked. "I'm sorry sir," said the receptionist, "but Mr. Jones is out of town for a few days." "Then may I speak to Mr. Honeywell?" asked the caller. "I'm afraid Mr. Honeywell is tied up," replied the receptionist, "and can't come to the phone." The caller lost his temper. "What kind of office is that?" he screamed, "Mr. Jones is out of town and Mr. Honeywell is tied up all day." "Yes, sir," replied the receptionist, unabashed. "When Mr. Jones goes away he always ties Mr. Honeywell up." There's not much trust in that office. How far do you think Honeywell and Jones are going to go without trust?
Trusting God exposes our finances to the supernatural. It makes no sense that someone who can't pay his bills on 100 percent of his salary would be able to pay his bills on 90 percent. Rationally it makes no sense. It also makes no sense that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that we should have eternal life. Why would He love us that much? You can't comprehend God's love.
Many people say that when they get it together, they will give. Giving is God's way for you to get it together. He will bless while you get it together. There is no good time to give. Remember the song You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille? When is a good to leave? There is never a good time. "Be not afraid" is a common New Testament command. Don't be afraid to give. Take a jump. Take a leap.
There are two kinds of people at the ocean. There are the ones who run right in. The cold water is a shock, but they adjust and get comfortable. They relax and enjoy the water. Then there are the ones that inch in. They spend forever trying not to get wet. They aren't in or out; they're just miserable. People on the shore are happier than those inching into the water. They are the double-minded—not trusting, just waiting. How many of you waited until you could afford it to get married? If you did, you would not be married. Love says to make a commitment, then figure out how to pay for it. With God, love causes you to make the commitment, then you figure out how to pay. It works—why? Because God helps you work it out. This one big decision makes the rest a lot easier. Why would a psychologist travel around the country talking about giving? Because in my research, I have discovered that the number one criteria of good mental health is giving. I'm keeping people out of the state hospital. So give, and really live.